Cape Town - The warning to Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini is crystal clear: just one wrong move with grant payments and she will be held personally liable.
This is the message from the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa), following a groundbreaking Constitutional Court ruling averting a potential mammoth crisis impacting 17 million people, mostly elderly, children and disabled people in our South Africa.
"SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) and Cash Paymaster Service (CPS) must ensure payment from April 1 for 12 months on the same terms and conditions as the contract which expires on March 31," Justice Johann Froneman said in handing down the judgment on Friday.
READ: Bathabile Dlamini sorry for causing anxiety, fear
Although Dlamini apologised unreservedly to the millions of grant beneficiaries for the anxiety she had put them through, Fedusa said the ruling will bring stability to a highly volatile situation.
"[It] ensures that millions of South African are not unfairly prejudiced by the incompetence of executive authority,” said Fedusa secretary general Dennis George.
“Fedusa will hold Minister Dlamini personally accountable if there are any disruptions of grant payment to needy South Africans over the 12 months period that has been ordered by the Constitutional Court”, he noted.
The ConCourt ruling means the declaration of the invalidity of the previous contract between Sassa and CPS would be suspended for 12 months.
In 2014, the Constitutional Court declared the R10bn grant payments tender run by Net1 UEPS Technologies’ Cash Paymaster Services as invalid amid irregularities in the awarding of the deal.
Subsequently, the court ordered Sassa to reissue the tender, which the state welfare agency did not as it said the bids were non-compliant.
The agency said it was not ready to assume the payment function itself by April 1, as previously planned, putting the welfare project in limbo.
"The sole reason for the litigation leading to this judgment is the failure of Sassa and the minister to keep their promise to this court and the people of South Africa," Justice Froneman said.
The ConCourt stated that the extension of CPS's contract will facilitate a due process of appointing another service provider. It further ordered Dlamini and Sassa to submit reports every three months on the progress of the new contract.
- The contract must continue under the same terms and conditions as the current contract.
- Dlamini has a March 31 deadline to explain why she should not be joined to the proceedings in her personal capacity, and why she should not personally pay the costs of the application.
- If CPS wants to change how much it gets paid for the one-year extended contract then it must approach National Treasury and the court.
- The ConCourt asserted that the confidential data of social grant beneficiaries must be protected.
Black Sash, the civil rights organisation that approached the ConCourt over the controversial contract between CPS and Sassa, said it was elated by the ruling.
"Today’s ruling affirmed that when the executive of government fails to perform its constitutional duties, the ConCourt can act decisively to safeguard and guarantee the protection of Section 27 rights, in this case social security," it said in a statement on Friday.
"However, the country should not be put into this invidious position ever again," the group added.
There has been widespread calls for Dlamini to step down or be axed. However, President Jacob Zuma defended her saying she didn't commit any crime.
Time for redemption
Speaking on the side-lines of a Sassa event in Kempton Park, on the East Rand, Dlamini told journalists that she fully accepted the court's decision and would adhere to its orders, reported News24.
"Worse could have come out of this. This is giving us, and more particularly myself - a second opportunity to prove my commitment to my work - so I highly appreciate that we are given a second opportunity to account," the minister said.
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